Friday, June 19, 2009

The Past In the Present

Part 1

Modernism or known as international style after 1940s, contributes to the death of
identities, history and social lifestyle of a nation in architecture. Modern houses look similar
from all over the world, thus the culture and identities of different regions and nations are
hardly to be seen in modern buildings.
On the other hand, traditional architecture is speaking for one nation about its culture,
climate, and social lifestyle. For instance, pitch roofs tell about tropical climate and courtyard
let know the social lifestyle. Traditional means the norms we been practicing in a long time. It is
the style of living been passing from one generation to another. In short, it is the root of us.
In addition, poetic in space is lacking in modernism because the structures, spaces and
form have no relation to our root. It is just like something imported from Europe that is totally
no connection to our national identities, history and lifestyle and therefore modern
architecture does not touches ones heart. However, traditional architecture would have the
trail of culture, history and identities of a nation that modern architecture does not have.
Unlike the modern houses, the traditional courtyard house integrated with “Feng Shui”
elements makes the place full of stories and that is the poetic in space.
Modernism style emphasizes on clean lines and simple forms that create a new kind of
aesthetic which is not responding to the local climate. Thus, the building will need active system
to achieve comfort. For example, as tropical climate has high density of rain water, flat roof in
modernism does not keep away rain water causes big issue of water leaking into the building. In
another word, it cost more to sustain a modern building compare to sustaining a traditional
However, there are several strengths in modern architecture that can be learned and
integrated into traditional architecture to extend its limitation. For instance the technologies in
modernism allow larger scale buildings, and shorter period for construction. Therefore, we
should allow modernism to integrate into traditional architecture and lets traditional
architecture keep evolving to conserve the nation’s identities, history and social lifestyle.

Part II
The identity of traditional architecture in Malaysia is the responsive to climate features.
For example, cross ventilation to remove heat and high pitch roof to drain rainwater quicker. In
addition, another identity of traditional architecture is the local materials like timber, brick and
concrete. However, presently modern materials such as steel and glass are to be seen
1.0 Reinvigorating Tradition
Reinvigorating tradition is defined as injecting new life and meaning in to traditional
architecture. Take the example of The Aryani Resort at Terengganu, designed by Senibahri
Arkitek, of injecting new life to traditional architecture.
The concept of Aryani Resort is to create a traditional Malay Kampong environment for
tourist to have the chance for celebrating the traditional architecture and knowing our national
identities, history and social lifestyle. The resort is likely a traditional kampong but different
events in it. This is to be said as turning a village layout into commercial purposes (tourism).
The essence of Malay Kampong layout can be seen in the central courtyard which
resembles the community space in a Malay Kampong layout. This courtyard is the core of the
resort where facility like swimming pool. That becomes the spot of gathering of this community
especially where this is the place for events such as traditional performances and recreational
(Figure 1 The central courtyard, Architecture Malaysia “Hotels & Resorts” 2006)
Aryani Resort comprises 20 rooms with 4 types villas to enhance the ambience of
traditional Malay Kampong. These villas are designed based on traditional style of Malay House
not only for the exterior look but also for the interior spaces for instance double volume space
for the ventilation purposes is the essence of traditional Malay houses.
(Figure 2 Exterior look of the Villa, Architecture Malaysia “Hotels & Resorts” 2006)
In conclusion, the architect breathes life into traditional architecture by adding new
meaning to it. Like Aryani Resort, put tourism, the new meaning into a traditional village.
2.0 Reinventing Tradition
Reinventing Tradition means to use a new language or style to present the essence of
traditional architecture. Dr Ken Yeang’s Roof‐roof house gives an example on reinventing
Roof roof house by Dr Ken Yeang presents the essence of Tradition that is responding to
local climate in the form of modern style. This approach can be seen in the layout planning
where its north‐south orientation protects the major space such as living area from the tropical
sun. Besides, the configuration of the space allow for the prevailing Southeast to Northwest
wind passing through and cool down the interior spaces.
(Figure 3 Section of Roof‐roof House explaining the responding climate features,
Kenneth Yeang 1984)
(Figure 4 Roof‐roof house prevailing winds diagram explains cross ventilation approach in
design, Kenneth Yeang 1984)
In another words, Roof‐roof house has the essence of a traditional architecture in a
modern building. The essence is the passive climatic features such as the cross ventilation and
configuration of spaces to avoid heating by the sun.
3.0 Extending Tradition
Extending Tradition is modifying traditional architecture to create additional meaning to
it. Kok’s Bungalow by GDP architects is an example of extending tradition.
The concept of blurred boundaries between indoor and outdoor is extended from
traditional Malay house can be seen in Kok’s Bungalow. The inner courtyard is adding blur to
the feeling of indoor and outdoor. 3
(Figure 5 Kok’s Bungalow‐the wide opening and inner courtyard, Architecture Malaysia
“PAM Award” 2006)
Deriving from traditional Malay houses, wide openings are to be seen in Kok’s Bungalow.
The folding glass wall allows for full ventilation to respond local climate. This is an obvious
evidence of extending the ventilation system in traditional Malay houses.
The courtyard is clearly the modifying of traditional Chinese courtyard house. There is a
small pond in the middle of the courtyard is functioning as an cooling agent to the house. The
courtyard brought in the sun light and rain water. More than that, it brings life to the plants
inside the courtyard.
In conclusion, Kok’s Bungalow has modified traditional architecture to suit into the
contemporary living while maintain the essence of it.
4.0 Reinterpreting Tradition
Reinterpreting Tradition means the integration of traditional elements into
contemporary style. Wooi’s Architect shows an example of reinterpreting tradition through the
selection of materials in Wooi’s Residence at Shah Alam.
Wooi’s Architect selected the 3 main traditional materials like brick, timber and
concrete added with modern glasses to extend tradition. The integration of brick piers and
diagonal timber struts that looks familiar is forming the sense of tradition to the house. Besides,
these diagonal timber struts supporting the cantilevered protruding first floor.
(Figure 6 Front View of Wooi’s Residence, Architecture Malaysia “Architects’ Homes” 2006)
The skins of Wooi’s Residence keep reminding the presence of traditional in the house.
For instance, the un‐plastered brick wall, timber ceiling with the exposing rafter seems like
talking the story of our tradition. Although Wooi’s Residence has the contemporary layout, its
skins still
(Left Figure 7 Bricks finishes at the entertainment area. Architecture Malaysia “Hotels & Resorts”
(Right Figure 8 Timber Ceiling with Roof Rafter exposing, Architecture Malaysia “Hotels &
Resorts” 2006)
In conclusion, Wooi’s Architect is integrating traditional materials into contemporary
building. The integration of traditional and contemporary tell stories of traditions for the next
(Figure 9 Traditional Materials in Contemporary Building,
Architecture Malaysia “Hotels & Resorts” 2006)
Reference List
AM, Architecture Malaysia “ Architects’ Homes”. 2006 p.27‐29
AM, Architecture Malaysia “Hotels & Resorts”. 2006 p. 48‐49
AM, Architecture Malaysia “PAM Award” 2006 p.21‐23
“Roof‐roof House” 2006. Retrieved on 8 April 2007, at

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